Thinking primarily of the Apollo missions with this question, but could be expanded in an answer with a more general response, if appropriate...

With several Apollo-era astronauts sharing similar-sounding first names, such as...

  • Al(fred) Worden, Al(an) Bean, Al(an) Shepard
  • Ed Mitchell, Ed White
  • Jack Schmitt, Jack Swigert
  • James Irwin, James McDivitt, James Lovell
  • Walt Cunningham, Wally Schirra

Were crews selected to avoid placing these astronauts with similar first names with one another? I would think in case of emergency or other tense situation, having unique first names would help reduce confusion as in "which one of us were they talking to when they called by first name?" I do see that the Walt/Wallys were on Apollo 7 together, but that's the only instance I can find.

Just curious is that sort of consideration was ever taken into account, or has been since then.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Once upon a time there was a fictional Skylab mission in the comic strip Doonesbury, with crew members Scot, Scott, and Ted, but I don't know of other examples in that era. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 1, 2020 at 21:49
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't the simple thing to do be use their last names? I don't think Astronauts would get so excited in an emergency they couldn't remember a name...if they could, I'd worry about what other more important things they may temporarily forget. $\endgroup$
    – BruceWayne
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 0:56

2 Answers 2


Signs point to no.

There's an excellent overview of the rather complicated Apollo crew selection process in this answer: https://space.stackexchange.com/a/23149/6944

Then throw in this story of those offered Apollo missions who turned them down, which complicated the story even more:

The Moonwalkers Who Could Have Been which states that Borman, McDivitt, and Collins were offered lunar landing missions but turned them down (There's a horrifying typo in this article but I consider it credible anyway)

Bottom line, there was too much involved in the decision process to worry about their first names.

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    $\begingroup$ Besides, don't the uniformed services always refer to people primarily by their last-names? $\endgroup$
    – Dai
    Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 5:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ What is the typo in the article? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 7:05
  • $\begingroup$ @MitchellSpector spelled Alan Shepard's name wrong. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 3, 2020 at 13:10
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    $\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Thank you. (I wouldn't call that a "horrifying" typo, but it ought to be fixed.) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 4, 2020 at 23:03

Like @OrganicMarble, I have found a considerable lack of evidence that such a thing happened.

On the other hand, early astronauts had lots of nicknames, which allowed a distinctive way to address a particular person in a roomful of astronauts:

  • Walter "Wally" Schirra versus Walter Cunningham
  • Charles "Pete" Conrad versus Charles "Charlie" Duke
  • Thomas "Ken" Mattingly versus Thomas Stafford
  • Edward "Ed" White versus Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin versus Edgar Mitchell
  • Donald "Deke" Slayton versus Donn Eisele
  • John "Jack" Swigert versus John Young
  • It's arguable that Gordon "Gordo" Cooper and Richard Gordon could be confused without nicknames.
  • Many others (Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Eugene "Gene" Cernan, Russell "Rusty" Schweikart, etc.) also had nicknames, even though their names were otherwise unique.
  • John Glenn and Scott Carpenter left NASA before others with their first name became astronauts.

Astronauts who used the same forms of their first name:

  • Alan Shepard and Alan Bean
  • James "Jim" Lovell and James "Jim" Irwin versus James McDivitt

Some of these nicknames originated before their tenure as an astronaut, but nonetheless, nicknames eliminated the "same name" issue.


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